Antwerp Zoo introduces no-kill policy for surplus animals


Flanders’ Royal Society for Zoology has co-operated with the animal rights group and animal welfare minister to agree to stop euthanising animals they have no space for

Other options

The Royal Society for Zoology Antwerp, which manages Antwerp Zoo and animal park Planckendael in Mechelen, has announced the introduction of a no-kill policy. This means that healthy animals that the parks nevertheless have no space for will not be euthanised.

The agreement was made in co-operation with animal rights organisation Gaia and Flemish minister for animal welfare, Ben Weyts. The problem of so-called surplus animals caused widespread controversy in 2014 when a zoo in Denmark put down a giraffe because it was not genetically fit to breed with the zoo’s herd. The giraffe was later autopsied in public and fed to the zoo’s big cats.

Less dramatically, Planckendael last year euthanised a Saharan oryx, a type of antelope no longer extant in the wild, also for space reasons.

The charter signed with Gaia and Weyts recognises two types of surplus animal: those that form part of the international breeding programmes to which the zoo is affiliated and whose numbers can be controlled, and other species maintained for educational purposes, which can be allowed to breed naturally.

If a surplus situation should arise, it will be dealt with by one of a number of options, from returning animals to the wild to sending them to other zoos. “We evaluated the breeding programmes and reduced the number of surplus animals to the absolute minimum,” said Michel Vandenbosch of Gaia. “Of course there are exceptional cases, but that doesn’t change the fact that those animals have the right to the best possible quality of life. We hope other zoos follow this example.”

“The Antwerp Zoo and Planckendael make great efforts for the animals in their care, and Gaia serves as a critical social partner,” said Weyts. “We are all partners together in the fight for better animal welfare. This charter is a crucial link in a considered animal welfare policy. I am proud we in Flanders can play a pioneering role.”

Photo, from left: Gaia’s Michel Vandenbosch, minister Ben Weyts and Dries Herpoelaert, director-general of the Royal Society for Zoology
©Courtesy Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp Zoo is one of the oldest and best-conserved zoos in the world. The zoo buildings and gardens are registered as protected Flemish heritage.
Kai-Mook - In 2009, Kai-Mook, the first baby elephant born on Belgian soil, dominated national and international headlines for weeks.
Founding - The Zoo was established by former Antwerp mayor Jans Frans Loos. After visiting Amsterdam’s zoo, he decided it was time for Antwerp to get its own.
Short - In colloquial Flemish speech, Antwerp Zoo has long gone by the simple name “De Zoo”.
1 843

Zoo opens


surface area in hectares

5 000